Tennessee Pastor Arrested For Sexual Assaulting Teen Girl Inside Church

Cocke County Detention Center

Pastor James "Ronnie" Messer was charged with statutory rape and sexual battery after assaulting a teenage girl.

A Tennessee pastor was arrested on charges of statutory rape and sexual battery after a teenage girl alleged he raped her while the two were alone inside his church.

Deputies were called to a home in Newport on Saturday night after the girl told family members she had been raped by her church pastor, James "Ronnie" Messer. The girl told police she rode with Messer to the Crossway Worship Center in Newport. She said the two entered the church and went into a room, where Messer began flirting with her and asked her several times to take off her clothes, which she initially refused to do. The girl said she felt scared and, at Messer's direction, took off her clothes and laid on the floor, where Messer had sex with her.

After the alleged assault, the girl said Messer drove the pair to an area where they could swim, but due to muddy waters, the pastor drove them to an undisclosed location instead.

Messer reportedly admitted having sex with the girl, but he told police the act was consensual.

Warrants were taken out on Messer and he was taken into custody and transferred to the Cocke County Jail.

Messer faces charges of statutory rape, forcible rape and aggravated sexual battery by an authority figure.

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